Chinese anger as Philippine flag draped over gunman's coffin

MANILA, August 27, 2010 (AFP) - The Chinese government expressed outrage on Friday after television footage showed a Philippine flag draped over the coffin of a gunman who hijacked a busload of Hong Kong tourists.

"The person who deserves a national flag at (their) funeral should be someone of heroism, decency and integrity, not someone who inflicts atrocity on innocent lives," the Chinese embassy in Manila said in a statement.

"This is nothing but a smear on the dignity of the Philippine national flag."

Sacked policeman Rolando Mendoza hijacked a bus that was carrying a group of Hong Kong tourists in Manila on Monday in a bid to be cleared of extortion charges and get his job back.

Eight of the tourists on board the bus were killed in the final stages of the 12-hour siege, which finally ended when police shot Mendoza dead.

Police said they believed Mendoza killed all eight of the victims but are carrying out tests to ensure the rescuers did not shoot any of the captives.

The Chinese government has expressed anger over the Philippine government's handling of the hostage crisis, and the flag issue is likely to stoke tensions.

"The Chinese embassy in the Philippines condemns the brutality of the criminal and expresses its strong indignation over this irritating act," the statement said.

The flag was draped over Mendoza's coffin on Friday during his wake at his family's home in Tuanauan town, about two hours' drive south of Manila.

Following the Chinese embassy statement, the government moved quickly to have the flag removed and police said his family likely draped it over the coffin. Mendoza's funeral will be held on Saturday.